You love creating video content and you've got an entrepreneurial spirit. You know you will have to put in a lot of work and long hours to make it a reality, but you're ready to make it official and start your own video production company. Maybe it will be part time at first, like a hobby that pays. It's going to be an awesome, fun and profitable ride, but where do you start?
You understand frame rates, composition and storytelling, but are in the dark about the difference between a sole proprietor and LLC, and don't even mention branding and logo design. Well, you're reading the right article. This will be a crash course in getting your budding video production business set up correctly, right out of the gate.
Let's jump in with the first thing to work on: the company name and branding. This includes colors and fonts, so time to get creative! Grab a notepad or tablet and let's get cranking.
Coming up with the name: How do you want your company/brand to come across, especially to someone who has no idea who you are? Write down 3-4 descriptive terms you want to really stand out for. High-end quality? Trustworthiness? The ability to handle any sized project? Take a few minutes on this and be clear with yourself, while visualizing your ideal projects and ideal clients.
Take it from me: don't name the company after yourself with something like, I don't know, Bryant Productions. I've had a few great mentors while I grew (and importantly when I rebranded) my company, and the name is tremendously important. Here's why something like "Bryant Productions" isn't the best idea: "Bryant" makes the company sound small (which it is, but let's not scare potential clients off since you can always hire freelancers for projects that need more hands), and "Productions" corners you into video production. What if -- in a year or two -- you want to start offering web design or social media management? Do you think a client would be more willing to hire a company for web design that sounds like they are a video production company first, and web design as a distant second? Keep it general. The same goes for the location, in case you ever move. So DO NOT name your company, "Brookfield Wedding Production." If you move away from Brookfield and/or want to offer something other than weddings, you're in trouble and will need to rebrand in order to be taken seriously. Don't back yourself too far into a corner with the name.
Once the name is decided upon, confirm with your Secretary of State that its available. For Connecticut, head to https://www.concord-sots.ct.gov/CONCORD/online?sn=PublicInquiry&eid=9740. Yeah, the government isn’t big on nice, clean URLs. Enter the desired name in the search field and if no one else has it, congrats: you’re good to go!
Once the name is decided upon, you've slept on it and are still in love with it, let's move on to branding. Get this down from the start. Google "color psychology" and check out the graphics that show you the general feelings different colors tend to evoke. Compare that with the list of descriptions you want people to feel about your brand and match those up. What colors are you coming up with? To help you narrow down a bit more, the colors need to be complimentary. For my Studio 12 Academy, once I had 1-2 colors I wanted, I went to www.coolors.co. It's a VERY cool color theme generator. Find the HEX code of the color or two you want, enter it into the website and it will find color schemes that match. For Studio 12 Academy, I had settled on the blue (called "New Car Blue") but wanted ideas for the other colors that would make up the brand, and Coolors got me there.
Chris's Empire Studios (left) and Studio 12 Academy (right) logos. Notice the different styles and colors for each.
At this stage, you can also bring on a graphic designer to create a logo for you, whether that’s a freelancer you know, or even someone on Fivrr with great reviews. Just make sure the logo is A+ and you’re super happy with it. Don’t compromise on this point, since it will be the first impression many, many people will have about your brand. I used a design company out of the UK called Logo Design Team (www.LogoDesignTeam.com). I’ve hired them for a few logos I’ve needed over the years and haven’t been disappointed yet, and the pricing is extremely reasonable. If you are really good with design, by all means create your own. Also determine the font (something clean and easy to read is best), but if working with a designer, s/he can help you with that.
Ok, now that the fun high-level branding is taken care of, you need to look at some boring business stuff and decide what kind of business entity the company will be. There are several to choose from, but there are really only two types for a small video company: sole-proprietorship and LLC. Here is the difference in a nutshell: a sole-prop is basically you. You are legally the same as your company, and share all profits, losses and potential lawsuits. Basically, it’s you doing business as your company’s name. It’s the easiest and fastest to set up, which is why it’s a popular way to do it. The other type of business is an LLC, or Limited Liability Company. Here, your business is its own entity, apart from you. As the name implies, it limits your own liability if things ever go wrong. That said, if you are willfully at fault for something, you can still be sued (just as if you worked for a company and did something that caused property damage, let’s say… those wronged could come after you as well as your company). This isn’t legal advice, but a general overview. If you want more information, please contact a lawyer.
When starting up, I HIGHLY recommend checking out your local SCORE chapter (www.score.org). SCORE is part of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and is a totally free resource to use when planning, starting, and growing your business. I’ve used various aspects of the program when starting a few businesses, including one-on-one coaching, workshops and webinars. They can help guide you to ensure you’re doing it right.
If you follow the above steps, you will be starting your new video production company on the right foot. Best of luck!
Studio 12 Academy is an online hub that offers the resources you need to take your film production career to the next level. You can find more articles and course content similar to this at their website: http://www.studio12academy.com/